The other evening, I committed a crime: I watered my asparagus patch. Emboldened by my misdeed, the next morning I watered my lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and even some inedible potted plants.
No one’s coming to arrest me, or even to slap a fine on me. In truth, it’s not exactly clear if the new Israeli law prohibiting watering applies to all gardens, to public gardens or just to lawns. It’s also not clear who will be enforcing it: The “green patrol” is famously understaffed. You can be sure that bigger criminals than me will be watering lawns in the middle of the day this summer, and one or two of them may even get a slap on the wrist.
I should be happy that, after years of profligate waste and ignoring the warnings, the government is finally taking some action. But part of me can’t help feeling that I’m being lied to. On the TV ads, a supermodel, television personalities, singers, and the captain of the Maccabee Tel Aviv basketball team tell us that we’ve had several drought years, followed by an especially dry winter, and if we don’t all take four minute showers and stop watering the garden, Lake Kinneret will dry up.
The truth? This winter, the rainfall nearly reached the yearly average, thanks to some unexpected storms in March. The real truth? Even if all of the previous years’ rainfall levels had been average or slightly above, we’d still be running out of water. Israel’s water resources have been badly managed for many years; over- pumping, pollution and construction have all reduced our supply of usable water. Add to that an increase in demand from a growing population with a rising standard of living. Appealing to the public to shower less and letting our little garden plots go brown can’t possibly make up for decades of faulty planning.
So, this summer, I’ll continue to not wash my car (something not even mentioned in the law or the TV ads. Since when is washing cars a better use of water than growing things?). When and if they send me a water saver for my shower head, I’ll install it, and I might even bring myself to turn off the water when I soap up. And, I’ve rigged up a system to water the front garden with gray water from the kitchen sink (though this is not quite as big a savings as it seems, since our sewage is normally recycled for watering crops.) The herbs, especially, won’t mind, and I’m hoping the eco-friendly label on the dish soap I use means it will break down without harming the soil. (I would include a photo, but it’s not much to look at — just a jerry-rigged pipe coming out of my drain into a couple of plastic vats and an aquarium pump attached to a hose.) When it comes to the vegetables, I water at night or first thing in the morning; I keep them mulched to prevent evaporation, and I’m careful to give them the minimum. But I’ll be flouting any laws that may or may not apply and opening the garden tap to water them.